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Green: What’s in It for Me?


An Argument for Being Green

I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference where the actor and well known environmentalist, Ed Begley Jr. spoke to a group of about 500 plumbers, roofers, electricians and HVAC professionals. Ed Begley Jr. is one of my heroes, but I wondered how he might be received by this generally conservative group of small business owners from all over the U.S and Canada.

Mr. Begley’s interest in being green was rooted in the early ’70s when he purchased an all-electric car. Although his model was little more than a golf cart, it perfectly complemented his other modes of transportation; bicycle and public transit. Some of you may recall a television series called “Living with Ed” that chronicled his successes and struggles with becoming green. Mr. Begley was at this Expo as a celebrity spokesperson for the A.O. Smith Company, one of the oldest manufacturers of water heaters in the world.  A.O. Smith has expanded its energy-efficient line of water heaters by integrating the Takagi tankless water heater brand into their line-up as well as some interesting hybrid designs that combine the best of both tank and tankless technologies.

A Single Flame

Mr. Begley’s main argument for environmental was not a plea to save the planet as I had anticipated.  Instead, he appealed to the conservative audience on the grounds that his pursuit of environmentally friendly solutions for his home was largely based on his desire to save money as an often underemployed actor living in a modest California bungalow.  He bragged about his energy-efficient A.O. Smith “Vertex” water heater which has given him years of service and is still going strong.  He was also very excited that he uses, as he puts it, only “one flame” for both heating and hot water.  He explained that hot water from the water heater is pumped across a heat exchanger to give up its heat to the forced air blower of the furnace. By eliminating the furnace’s “burner flame”, he reduced his gas bill dramatically.

Ed Begley Jr. usually  pursues simple, common-sense projects that are well within his modest skill-set to perform as a do-it-yourselfer.  (I was happy to learn that plumbing is not one of his strengths and relies on professionals for that).  For example, he installed a fence that was made out of recycled plastic. Yes, it was more expensive than wood, but it never required painting or any other maintenance. Ed’s wife was not pleased with the initial cost, but as the weather took its toll on his neighbors’ fences, the recycled plastic one ultimately proved to be the bargain.

The benefits of being green are three-fold, according to Mr. Begley.

  • First, it saves money!
  • It reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
  • It reduces pollution.

Now who couldn’t get on board with that?

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